Largo grad makes immediate impact
By NANCY MORGAN
Published November 19, 2006
Ole Miss wide receivers coach Matt Lubick expected Dexter McCluster Largo to make an impact on the field, and he was pleasantly surprised the freshman also would serve as a role model for his teammates on and off the field.
"We knew Dexter would be special when he got here because he was so outstanding in high school," Lubick said. "When he got here, we switched him from running back to wide receiver and his attitude was amazing. He had a great pre-season. ...His passion and work ethic are absolutely remarkable and he's a perfect role model, even as a freshman."
McCluster, the Times' 2005 all-Suncoast Player of the Year, wasted no time establishing his presence in Division I. In the Rebels' season opener with Memphis, McCluster recorded 268 yards, including a touchdown, in a 28-25 win.
For his efforts, he was named SEC Freshman Player of the Week. This was followed by Rivals.com naming him National Freshman Player of the Week.
"I've been a running back all of my life until I came to Ole Miss," said McCluster, 18. "When I was told I would have a chance to start if I converted to wide receiver, I was definitely willing to do it.
"It's taken some getting used to. Both a running back and wide receiver require good concentration and you have to be able to handle, hold and catch the ball. I was used to taking the handoffs as a running back, and once I catch the ball, the rest is just like a running back."
McCluster said there's more technique to being a wide receiver than running back, and he worked hard in the preseason to learn his new position. By the season opener, McCluster had earned his start.
" In high school, everyone is around the same size, but in college, you have 300 to 360-pound guys out there," McCluster said. "I'm on the small side, but I believe if you have heart, determination and the Lord on your side, you'll do okay."
"As a running back, I never paid attention to any of the NFL wide receivers, but now I see a lot of them that are successful and are relatively small."
From the time McCluster first played football with the Largo Junior Packers at 10, he never stopped. Though he also played baseball, it was football that was his passion. His dad, Marcus, also played at Largo and went on to play running back at Eastern Kentucky.
"When it came down to it, my choices were Ole Miss, USF and WVU," McCluster said. "After my dad and I visited the schools, I knew it was Ole Miss where I wanted to go. I see the makings of a great team here and I think once everything comes together, we're going to shock a lot of teams."
Unfortunately for McCluster, in his sixth game he injured his neck on an 18-yard opening kickoff return against Vanderbilt and has been out the past four games.
"I really want to be out there," McCluster said, "but in the meantime, I've been lifting weights, getting stronger and watching lots of film to help tighten my game."
Through the Rebels' six games, McCluster accrued 574 all-purpose yards, still the team's second highest.
We're excited about Dexter's future with Ole Miss for what he brings on and off the field," Lubick said.
MORE FOOTBALL: Colgate sophomore Jacob Stein (Shorecrest) is averaging 57.3 yards per kickoff.
- Wake Forest's Kevin Marion (Dixie Hollins) executed an 81-yard touchdown run in a 21-14 win over Boston College.
- Cornerback Leon Wright (Northeast) has 14 tackles for Duke and is returning kickoffs and punts.
SWIMMING: Junior Grant Johnson (Clearwater) helped Florida open its SEC season with a win with his first-place finish in the 200 freestyle against LSU.
SOCCER: Columbus State's junior defender Megan Honig (Countryside) was named to the Peach Belt Conference all-tournament team and repeated her position on the all-conference squad. Honig also was selected to the Daktronics/CoSIDA Division II all-Southeast Region second team.
- Sophomore David O'Brien (St. Petersburg) posted two goals and two assists for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. The squad, with a 10-4-4 season record, was invited to the ECAC New England Tournament.
- U.S. Coast Guard sophomore Abbie Harms (Lakewood) tied for second in goals, scoring three over eight games.
- Senior Jenny Borschel (Lakewood) tied for third in goals scored this season for Jacksonville. A 1-0 win over No. 2 Stetson advanced the Dolphins to their first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 2000.
- Freshman Regan Riley (Seminole) was a starting defender for Jacksonville and had the team's second-best shot percentage.
DIVING: N.C. State diver Austin Hampton (Admiral Farragut) recorded an Atlantic Coast Conference-best score of 348.81 in the 1-meter dive against Maryland and Duke. The sophomore qualified for the NCAA Diving Zones.
SOFTBALL: Courtney Lewellen (Seminole/USF) was inducted into the USF Softball Hall of Fame this month. USF's 2000-03 starting catcher was a 2003 NCAA all-Region second-team member, selected twice to all-Conference USA and to the C-USA all tournament team in 2003.
VOLLEYBALL: Chelsea Lazar (East Lake) led Marshall in blocks with six against UAB. Against Memphis, the junior middle blocker posted a career-best nine.
- HCC sophomore Kim Clark (Northeast) was named to the Florida all-tournament team after HCC upset Miami-Dade City. The outside hitter collected 24 kills and 10 digs against the No. 4 team. HCC is in Missouri competing in the NJCAA National Tournament.
News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 445-4119; e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Please include phone number.
[Last modified November 18, 2006, 20:41:09]
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